• Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation Prohibited Under Title VII
  • May 18, 2017 | Authors: Meredith Merry Campbell; John D. Clifford; Joy C. Einstein; Gregory D. Grant
  • Law Firm: Shulman, Rogers, Gandal, Pordy & Ecker, P.A. - Potomac Office
  • Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation Prohibited Under Title VII

    Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it unlawful for employers who are subject to the Act to discriminate on the basis of an individual’s race, color, religion, sex or national origin. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), the agency charged with interpreting and enforcing Title VII, already interprets Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination as extending to gender identity and sexual orientation, although not explicitly mentioned in Title VII. Now courts too have begun to grapple with whether they interpret sexual orientation discrimination as a form of sex discrimination under Title VII. At least according to the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit (Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin), the law should be read to extend additional protections. The case involved a woman who is openly gay and believed she was prevented from receiving a full-time job because of her sexual orientation. The Court expanded the definition of sex discrimination by finding that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination protected by federal law. While the Seventh Circuit is the first to apply this interpretation of sex discrimination to Title VII, employers located in the Fourth Circuit (including Maryland, D.C. and Virginia) should consider this decision and the EEOC’s position on Title VII sex discrimination when making employment decisions. In addition, many employees in Maryland and D.C. are already protected from discrimination based on sexual orientation under state laws which explicitly prohibit such practices.

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